Torrid Kubel is back in his slugging form

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2008 - 11:59 PM

The DH-outfielder is putting the memories of a devastating knee injury behind him, finding his stroke when the Twins are chasing a divisional title.

Jason Kubel watched his ball fly out of the park for a two-run home run in the fourth inning Sunday.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Jason Kubel went 4-for-5 and scored four runs Sunday in the Twins' 11-8 victory over the Mariners, and manager Ron Gardenhire concluded that the outfielder and DH finally has recovered after that bad knee injury he suffered that sidelined him for the entire 2005 season.

Kubel is batting .526 on the current homestand (10-for-19), with six RBI and one home run.

For the season, Kubel is batting .278 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI, a big improvement over last year at this time, when he was hitting .248 with nine home runs and only 44 RBI.

"He had a serious knee injury, and it becomes a confidence thing -- whether you're ever going to be able to use that leg right and get your legs underneath you to hit," Gardenhire said. "It's been a long process, but he can hit, the young man can hit. He's having a good year for us and we need it, and when he starts using the whole field, like he did today, he's just going to get better.

"He's getting there. When you blow your knee out as bad as he did, it takes a while. I think confidence-wise, he's starting to feel like he can really be a power guy and all those things. We know he can hit, so we just keep letting him out there.

"I think the one thing is that he gets a little pull-conscious every once in a while, and today he used the whole field. That's the type of hitter he really can be, the whole field."

The only negative for Kubel is that he is hitting only .208 against lefthanded pitching compared with .296 against righthanders.

Cuddyer to miss trip

Asked to give a report on his broken foot, Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said: "It's still broken. ... It's only nine days out from breaking it, so there's not that much that we can expect from it right now. They'll probably re-X-ray here in about a week or so and see if it's been healed and healing, and go from there."

Cuddyer said he won't make the next road trip that starts Thursday against the Angels. "No, I'll probably stay here and at some point I'll be able to start rehabbing," he said.

Seattle sources say the Twins did claim Mariners pitcher Jarrod Washburn on waivers and the two teams thought they had a deal with the Twins giving up a player -- reportedly Boof Bonser -- but for some reason it fell through. Washburn told the Seattle Times that he was hoping the deal would go through.

Seattle pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre was so puzzled with the poor performance of former Twins pitcher Carlos Silva -- whose record after signing a $48 million, four-year contract is 4-14 and a 6.36 ERA -- after being hammered by the Twins on Friday that he asked Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson if he can see anything that is keeping Silva from pitching like he did last year, when he won 13 games.

"They just kind of asked about what we saw different in him," Anderson said. "Like I said, he was getting down a little lower with his arm, getting on the side of stuff and it wasn't sinking at all."

Silva was put on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday because of tendinitis in his elbow.

Jottings

Starting today and continuing for two weeks, the Timberwolves will have nine of their top players -- including Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Kevin Love, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Corey Brewer, Chris Richard and Mike Miller -- working out every day at Target Center. They will be around until Labor Day, take 10 days off, then resume workouts out until training camp opens. The Wolves would like to invite former Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel, who was on their summer league team, to camp, but he signed a contract with the Artland Dragons in Germany. A decision hasn't been made whether to sign free agent Kirk Snyder, but with Miller here, coach Randy Wittman said Snyder is not likely to sign.

Ben Utecht, the former Gophers tight end, caught four passes for 34 yards and a touchdown in his first preseason game with the Bengals on Aug. 11 against the Packers. He caught two more on Sunday for 25 yards against the Lions. Colts coach Tony Dungy said salary cap problems are the only reason Utecht isn't still with the Colts. "Ben came to us, he had been hurt his senior year at the U, and he was a talented guy and he fit right into what we wanted to do throwing our ball to our tight ends," Dungy said. "He had a great couple of years for us, actually started the Super Bowl, and was a big part of our success. He became a free agent last year, and Cincinnati gave him a nice, nice deal, which is going to have him set for life financially. So, we were happy for him and happy to see that but sad to see him leave us."

Gophers infielder Derek McCallum was named to the Northwoods League's postseason All-Star team. McCallum, who played for the St. Cloud River Bats, was third in the league with a .328 batting average.

The top football recruit in the state might be Minneapolis Washburn tight end Ra'Shede Hageman, who is near the top of Florida's recruiting list. Hageman was a visitor to the Gophers football practice this week. He told GophersIllustrated.com, "I was pretty impressed watching the team practice. I could really see myself playing with them. The team was filled with so much energy. Even though I was excited to watch them practice, I still have to think about where would be the best football program for me and my skills. Don't get me wrong, Minnesota will always be an option for me."

Ex-Gophers wide receiver Logan Payne, who didn't play for the Seahawks against the Vikings because of an injury, caught four passes for 38 yards in his team's 29-26 preseason victory over the Bears on Saturday. ... Payne's former college teammate Ernie Wheelwright had a good game for the Ravens against the Vikings, being the leading receiver with five catches for 37 yards. ... And receiver Ryan Hoag, another Washburn alumnus who played at Gustavus Adolphus, had a big day with Jacksonville on Saturday with three receptions for 71 yards.

The Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League has three former Gophers: offensive lineman Jerome Davis, wide receiver Arland Bruce and cornerback Willie Middlebrooks. To date, Bruce has 37 receptions for 449 yards and three touchdowns, while Middlebrooks has 28 tackles and one interception. ... Ex-Gophers receiver Ryan Thewell is with the Calgary Stampeders and has caught six passes for 95 yards. Last season he caught 40 passes for 733 yards and four touchdowns.

There is enough interest in North Dakota State football, with some 25,000 alumni living in this area, that KYCR radio (1570 AM) will carry all the Bison's games.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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